I was recently asked by a high school curriculum coordinator in Dubai what events their students can attend to supplement the new entrepreneurship curriculum they are currently testing. It's a great question- there aren’t many major events specifically geared towards youth interested in entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa.
There are, however, several gatherings that high school students can attend and learn a great deal from.
We have listed some of them below, and ask you to include more in the comments – we hope to compile a more complete list and share with high schools across the region to build up the MENA ecosystem from a younger age.
The events and gatherings are listed alphabetically.
Amman Tech Tuesdays
On the first Tuesday of every month, Amman Tech Tuesdays, which launched in 2010, hosts a 2-hour event in Jordan, bringing tech experts, local entrepreneurs, and just about any tech enthusiast together in a casual setting to meet and learn together. The standard structure for Tech Tuesday consists of a half hour “Tech Tutorial” and how-to session, a half hour “Startup and Idea Session,” and a one hour keynote by an industry expert.
ArabNet Developer Days
An annual event for developers across MENA, ArabNet Developer Days offer a chance for regional developers to come together to learn and discuss code. Typically in Beirut in March, and now in Riyadh and Cairo, Developer Days include lightning talks, tutorials, workshops, and an overnight developer competition to help developers hone their skills and connect to industry leaders. The last ArabNet Developer Days took place during the ArabNet Digital Summit 2012 in March of this year.
Incubators and accelerators in the Arab world offer young startups the chance to demonstrate and pitch their ideas to peers, competitors, and investors at events throughout the region, at “Demo Days."
Two such accelerators recently held very successful Demo Days: In September, Cairo-based accelerator Flat6Labs hosted their Cycle 2 Demo Day where six graduating tech startups pitched their ideas to the audience and networked with possible partners.
Dubai-based accelerator SeedStartup hosted their first Demo Day in September, graduating seven tech startups from their program, one of which even received investment that day. Events like these allow startup enthusiasts and entrepreneurship students a chance to survey new ideas in the ecosystem and get a feel for how startups are made, pitched, and funded.
Entrepreneur Club Meetings
Across the region, young entrepreneurs are meeting to discuss their ideas, build networks, and share their skills and knowledge with each other. Clubs such as these provide a place for ambitious and like-minded young movers to collaborate and share their experiences.
One such gathering in Beirut is eClub (The Entrepreneurship Club). Started in 2011 at the American University of Beirut, eClub meets every Saturday morning and has quickly expanded to two other campuses across the city. They have a diverse membership of students and young entrepreneurs interested in many different sectors.
Google Days are two to three days of workshops, trainings, and hackathons, organized by Google and local partners. The events attract developers, businessmen, marketing professionals, and webmasters to connect, network and share their experiences. Google Days and events have taken place across the region including in Morocco, Jordan, UAE, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria.
Another emerging trend across MENA is the growth of hackerspaces which work to provide a public, collaborative space for creative people to meet up, learn technical and artistic skills, and build inspired creations. The Global Entrepreneurship and Maker Space Initiative (GEMSI) has been accelerating this trend by establishing hackerspaces and hackathons across the Middle East and North Africa.
They recently helped to found Lamba Labs in Beirut and hosted a hackathon in Baghdad funded with over $29,000 from a Kickstarter campaign. Lamba Labs provides an open space for people to create and build innovative gadgets, art pieces, and programs. They host weekly events and workshops aimed at educating and inspiring members in Beirut and showing the public that anyone can be creative and make something original.
Hackathons are also becoming popular. These events provide the atmosphere of an accelerated hackerspace for a short time, allowing creative minds to collaborate within a supportive and temporary space. The New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) hosts an annual hackathon, the NYUAD International Hackathon for Social Good in the Arab World, a three-day “programming marathon,” where academics, startup founders, technology professionals, and venture capitalists come together to NYUAD to lead teams of talented students from the Arab world and the U.S. to create mobile and web applications.
AltCity in Beirut also hosts hackathons throughout the year, attracting young entrepreneurs to their collaborative space to build and innovate together. They have several events coming up next month that students can play an active role in.
Microsoft Imagine Cup
The Microsoft Imagine Cup helps students translate their knowledge into technology solutions that address real-world issues. The Imagine Cup takes the study of technology to the next level; whether to develop a breakthrough in healthcare, start a new company, or become better prepared to enter the workforce, students that participate in the Imagine Cup gain new tools and experience that will help them focus their talents and inspire them to innovate further. Every year Microsoft invites students from all over Middle East and Africa to step into this challenge and get the technical skills they need to realize their potential.
INJAZ Al-Arab provides Arab youth with experiential education and training in work readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship, by working these concepts into students’ regular curriculum. Throughout the year, INJAZ Al-Arab hosts competitions for high school and university students from across the Arab world.
Their most well-known competition is the annual INJAZ al-Arab Young Arab Entrepreneurs Competition, where students present their startup ideas to a panel of judges to win awards and prizes for categories including Most Innovative Product, Best Marketing Plan, Best Company of the Year, and Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
MAKE Business Hub
Urban cafes throughout the Arab world are popping up to host events, promote collaboration, and provide a space for “mobile workers” to connect and work side by side. One such café is the MAKE Business Hub which hosts two series, among others, that may be of particular interest to high school students. The LBi Digital Academy is a monthly series of interactive classes which educate participants on “core digital disciplines” and provide tools for the workplace and everyday life. MAKE ignition is their startup launchpad event which showcases aspiring tech entrepreneurs and their digital projects.
Mix 'n Mentor
Wamda's Mix N' Mentor events are a one-day gathering that brings together a community of entrepreneurs, mentors, and industry experts in a casual and high-energy setting. Wamda just hosted MnM events in Amman and Beirut and is heading to Dubai later this week. Future MnM's will continue throughout the region and continue to target an audience from all backgrounds and experience. High school students can find mentors, partners, and new knowledge to expand their current ideas and be inspired to start new ones.
Palestine High-Tech Hub + Peeks
Just launched in September, the Palestinian Hi-Tech Hub is a regular gathering of developers, designers, entrepreneurs, students, academics, investors and anyone interested in the Palestinian startup scene. Inspired by the Amman Tech Tuesdays events, each meeting consist of two to three short speeches presented by industry experts and offers an opportunity to meet with others in the industry. At the launch event, ten young entrepreneurs had the opportunity to pitch their ideas to the audience. Most participants ranged from ages 18 to 24, but one pitch even came from a 14-year-old. Another great resource for young entrepreneurs is Peeks, a grassroots community organization that supports technology entrepreneurship.
Startup Weekends are 54-hour events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups. Startup Weekends give participants the chance to "learn through the act of creating." Instead of sitting on the sidelines and dreaming about a new startup idea, Startup Weekends allow participants to build their own strategy and test it as they go. The next Startup Weekends in MENA will take place in Algeria, Lebanon, and Iraq. View their global events map here.
To spread the mission of TED, “ideas worth spreading,” the TEDx program gives communities, organizations, and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue and inspire creativity at the local level. TEDx events are planned and coordinated by local communities, and each have their own unique feel, from Casablanca to Baghdad. The next few to take place will be TEDxYouth@ENSEM in Casablanca, TEDxYouth@Alexandria, TEDxBeirut, and TEDxYouth@Baghdad. You can find the full map of events here.
The above photo is from eClub's Weekly Entrepreneur's Brunch.